2014 NBA lottery is 100 percent fixed. Probably. Sort of.

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Adam Silver’s NBA is no better than David Stern’s. The lottery is still fixed.

If you want to see the lottery odds the league is pitching, take a look. But I have the real odds – and proof of the conspiracy.

Two years ago – before the lottery – I wrote:

The NBA no longer owns the Hornets, but is still committed to keeping them in New Orleans. With their arena improvements needing approval of the state legislature in July, the Hornets could ride the Anthony Davis buzz and ensure there are no hitches. The league spent a year-and-a-half trying to sell the team without finding a buyer, so maybe Tom Benson needed a No. 1 pick thrown in the deal. David Stern has also meddled in the Hornets’ business before, in the Chris Paul trade. Davis would help Eric Gordon, and therefore Stern’s reputation, because Stern was the one who handpicked Gordon for the Hornets rather than taking the Lakers’ offer.

Of course, the Hornets got the No. 1 pick. It was so obvious.

And then last year, again before the lottery:

Stern desperately wants to create a Cavaliers-Heat rivalry to boost rankings, and to do so, he must make the Cavaliers better. Dan Gilbert remained loyal during the lockout, and especially after LeBron became the worst example of players seizing control from teams, Stern will reward Gilbert with a second No. 1 pick.

Yup, Cleveland got the No. 1 pick. Saw that coming.

Isn’t it always convenient how the most-obvious team wins the lottery? That happening proves it’s fixed. If it were truly random, a team other than the one you know the league wants to win would at least sometimes get the No. 1 pick. But that literally never happens.

RELATED: Complete 2014 NBA draft lottery preview

Here are the true lottery odds:

Milwaukee Bucks

Odds of winning the lottery: 25 percent 100 percent

Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry just bought the Bucks, and they were determined to complete the sale before the lottery. Suspicious timing. Obviously, the NBA offered the No. 1 pick to grease the wheels. There’s no other explanation why a team Forbes valued at $405 million sold for $550 million. Milwaukee is worth that – only with a No. 1 pick thrown in.

Philadelphia 76ers

Odds of winning the lottery: 19.9 percent 100 percent

Last year, 76ers president Rod Thorn became the NBA’s president of basketball operations. He’ll reward his former employers with the No. 1 pick. Even if Thorn wanted to take the high road, the 76ers really forced the league’s hand here. By tanking, their attendance fell 2,848 fans per game from last season – by far the biggest drop in the NBA. The league can’t afford to have such dismal numbers in such a large market, so it will expedite Philadelphia’s rebuild.

Orlando Magic 

Odds of winning the lottery: 15.6 percent 100 percent

Cleveland lost LeBron James and then got the No. 1 pick. New Orleans lost Chris Paul and then got the No. 1 pick. Orlando lost Dwight Howard and then… Cleveland got the No. 1 pick. OK, I guess LeBron was worth two compensatory No. 1s. But now that the Magic deferred a year, they’ll get the top pick. The NBA doesn’t let teams suffer too much after losing a superstar, and Orlando has paid its dues.

Utah Jazz

Odds of winning the lottery: 10.4 percent 100 percent

Though Andrew Wiggins is still the likely No. 1 pick, don’t rule out Jabari Parker. He’s more polished, and that could give him the edge in many statistical models teams use. So, the NBA will give the Jazz the top pick to ensure they get Parker. A Mormon star in Utah would have HUGE marketing potential. Parker could be bigger than Malone.

Boston Celtics

Odds of winning the lottery: 10.3 percent 100 percent

The Celtics are a flagship franchise, and they play in the Northeast, an area the NBA is biased toward. The last time Boston floundered, Kevin Garnett was conveniently sent there by former Celtic Kevin McHale. The Celtics have moles all over the the league. They’re leaning on their connections – established over years of excellent and money-making play – to get a No. 1 pick. The Boston market is too valuable to the NBA to allow another season like the last.

Los Angeles Lakers

Odds of winning the lottery: 6.3 percent 100 percent

Los Angeles is the biggest market in the lottery, and the NBA wants to keep putting the Lakers on national television. The league can’t do that as long as they remain this bad. The No. 1 pick would turn the Lakers back into marketing giants and bring streams and streams of revenue to the NBA. Did I mention money? Money, so much money. This No. 1 pick, in Los Angeles, could swing billions.

Sacramento Kings

Odds of winning the lottery: 4.3 percent 100 percent

The Sacramento City Council will meet at 6 p.m. locally vote on whether to fund the Kings’ new arena – essentially immediately after the lottery results are televised (show begins at 5 p.m. in California). The implication is clear: Give us the No. 1 pick, or we vote no. Now that the Sacramento City Councilors have made their demands, will the NBA acquiesce? Yes, yes it will.

Detroit Pistons

Odds of winning the lottery: 2.8 percent 100 percent

Andre Drummond has developed a cult following of fans, and the NBA sees potential. With Stan Van Gundy helping him to refine his game, all Drummond needs is another star. Then, the Pistons are set, and the league can market Drummond – who’s young, charismatic and exciting – both locally and nationally. The Pistons’ attendance is highly volatile, swinging based on the team’s quality. Across the country, people will be drawn to Drummond – as long as he plays for a winner.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Odds of winning the lottery: 1.7 percent 100 percent

I don’t know what Dan Gilbert is blackmailing the NBA with, but it sure works. Two No. 1 picks in three years is unprecedented in the current weight setup. Gilbert tried showing restraint on his golden goose, exercising his ability to get a top pick only every other year. But now, the Cavaliers owner is getting desperate. He traded for Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes and still couldn’t make the playoffs, and Anthony Bennett sure deserves a mulligan. Gilbert will cash in again.

Denver Nuggets

Odds of winning the lottery: 1.5 percent 100 percent

Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke also owns the St. Louis Rams, who just drafted Michael Sam, the NFL’s first openly gay player. In the wake of the Donald Sterling scandal, the NBA wants to draw attention to its most tolerant owners – even if their most-notable acts came in another sport. Denver getting the No. 1 pick will put the spotlight on Kroenke and his open-mindedness at a time the league really needs people like him at the forefront.

New Orleans Pelicans

Odds of winning the lottery: 1.1 percent 100 percent

The team formerly owned by the NBA will definitely get the No. 1 pick. The league took over the franchise just to keep it in New Orleans, a point of pride after Hurricane Katrina. But the Pelicans still rank in the bottom third of the league in attendance. Anthony Davis has certainly helped. One more No. 1 pick will really get New Orleans over the hump.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Odds of winning the lottery: 0.6 percent 100 percent

The NBA owners held a lockout with a goal of breaking up the Miami’s Big Three. Not only do the other owners not want super teams to be sustainable, they want to prevent them from forming by keeping their own stars – and they geared the rules toward that. They’ll gear the lottery toward that too, giving Minnesota the No. 1 pick and a much better chance of keeping Kevin Love.

Phoenix Suns

Odds of winning the lottery: 0.5 percent 100 percent

The Suns were the only lottery team competing hard until the end of the season, and Silver will reward that. The new commissioner has shown a willingness to overhaul the draft system, moving toward a setup that no longer encourages failure. He’s on record as interested in a play-in model for the final playoff spots, too – something that really would have helped Phoenix this season. But those type of big-picture fixes take time to implement. For now, Silver can just give the Suns the No. 1 pick as an end-around to achieving the outcome he believes should occur. It’s like a team getting the ball when touching it last going out of bounds following an uncalled foul on the opponent – and we know that’s approved in Silver’s NBA.

Commit these to memory now, or if you forget, check back after the lottery to see why it was rigged. After tonight, you only need to remember one of these outcomes – but then remember it forever and let all the sheeple know the truth.

Hawks progressing nicely in rebuild

AP photo/John Bazemore
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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

It seems as if the Hawks have been rebuilding for ages.

Really, they’re only one season removed from a decade-long playoff streak, the NBA’s second-longest at the time.

General manager Travis Schlenk has swiftly done what his predecessors didn’t – dismantle a team that won 60 games and commit to rebuilding. In fact, Schlenk has advanced far enough that he’s already well into building Atlanta back up.

Only Kent Bazemore remains the playoff-series-winning team in 2016, let alone the 60-win squad in 2015. Heck, only Taurean Prince, DeAndre’ Bembry and Bazemore remain from the team Schlenk inherited just last year.

The Hawks aren’t done dismantling. They’re poised to tank another season. But their rebuild has already seen a defining move.

On draft night, Atlanta traded the rights to No. 3 pick Luka Doncic to the Mavericks for the rights to No. 5 pick Trae Young and a future first-round pick. That decision will take year to evaluate and will linger over both franchises far longer.

For now, it seems about fair. I rated Doncic ahead of Young and both above their draft slots. The Dallas pick – top-five protected the next two years, top-three protected the following two years and unprotected in 2023 – roughly bridges the gap between the players.

If the Hawks preferred Young anyway, they did a great job leveraging an extra first-rounder and still getting their man.

Atlanta’s other first-round picks – Kevin Huerter (No. 19) and Omari Spellman (No. 30) – were also sound. Squint hard enough, and Young and Huerter comprise a backcourt that somewhat resembles Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. That’s the easy comparison considering Schlenk came from the Warriors’ front office, though that’d probably make Spellman the next Marreese Speights.

And that’s make Dennis Schroder the next Monta Ellis, a talented player it was time to move. Though Schroder is just 24, he’s too combustible with and away from the team. Young is the Hawks’ future at point guard.

Rather than pay Schroder $46.5 million over the next three years, Atlanta is better off sinking $25,534,253 into a waived Carmelo Anthony this season. And the Hawks got a potential first-rounder in the deal!

The Thunder pick is lottery-protected in 2022. Otherwise, it converts into two second-rounders. So, there’s a decent chance Atlanta never receives a first-rounder. But unloading Schroder, who had negative value to many teams around the league, was enough. Getting a pick or two – who knows how good Oklahoma City will be in four years? – is gravy.

The Hawks also swapped Mike Muscala for Justin Anderson in the three-way trade with the Thunder and 76ers. For this team in this league, going from the 27-year-old center to a 24-year-old small forward  is an upgrade. Anderson must gain traction in his career, but it’s worth the bet he does so in Atlanta.

Alex Len makes sense as another flier. The former No. 5 pick had moments in five years with the Suns, and he took major strides forward last season. Perhaps, the 25-year-old is on the verge of emerging as capable of being in a good team’s rotation. I’m surprised the price (guaranteed $8.51 million over two years) was so high, but the Hawks had cap space to burn. Better to get their preferred project center.

To that end, Atlanta splurged a lot of its cap room on Jeremy Lin, getting the point guard with just a smattering of second-round considerations going between Atlanta and Brooklyn. Could that cap space have been put to better use, like a salary dump or even just saving ownership money? Did the Hawks acquire Lin as a fan draw? Will Lin generate more revenue than his $13,768,421 salary? He could work well as a veteran mentor, but that’s a lot to pay a veteran mentor.

With Young, John Collins and Taurean Prince at the forefront and Spellman, Anderson and Len diversifying the portfolio, the Hawks have a nice core to build around. They’ll add to it with their own first-rounder, the extra first-rounder from Dallas and a potential first-rounder from Cleveland (top-10 protected the next two years or else it becomes two second-rounders).

Atlanta lost a good coach in Mike Budenholzer, but he didn’t seem eager to oversee a rebuild. Lloyd Pierce, known for player development and teaching defense, takes over. Like practically every first-time NBA head coach, Pierce is a roll of a dice. Maybe the Hawks could have leveraged Budenholzer into securing compensation from another team for letting him leave or even just paying off less of contract. Instead, they just sent him packing.

Sometimes, it’s best to make a clean break and move on.

Offseason grade: B-

Rockets GM Daryl Morey on Warriors signing DeMarcus Cousins: ‘It’s a little bit hard on paper to figure out how to make it work’

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DeMarcus Cousins picking the Warriors sent shockwaves through the NBA. You know they were felt in Houston, where Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is admittedly obsessed with beating Golden State.

Morey on The Dan Patrick Show:

I was really curious. Bob is really good at his job, and he likes to take smart gambles like I do. So, I understood the move. But it’s gonna be interesting. Coach Kerr is one of the best, too. So, it’s a little scary. They’ll probably figure out how to make it work, but it’s a little bit hard on paper to figure out how to make it work. But we do that well and so do they, obviously. They’re gonna be a tough out again, obviously. They’re arguably the best team in NBA history. They’re on their path to maybe be able to make that argument.

Cousins isn’t a seamless fit with the Warriors.

They like to run, and Cousins doesn’t always sprint up court – even before his torn Achilles. Their offense is predicated on quick ball movement, and Cousins likes to survey the floor. They have more efficient scoring options in Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, and Cousins is used to being a focal point. They like to switch defensively, and Cousins isn’t as comfortable guarding on the perimeter.

But Cousins is so talented, and the Warriors can afford to be patient as he recovers from his injury. They’re elite already.

I also believe Golden State will slow its tempo and play more traditional defense as its core ages. Cousins might fit better with next season’s Warriors than previous iterations of the team.

So, I think Morey is spot on. Golden State general manager Bob Myers was targeting wings for a reason. The Warriors didn’t exactly need another center – especially a slow-paced, ball-dominant, offensive-minded one. But when Cousins fell into their lap, signing him was well worth the relatively low cost.

Rumor: Pelicans will try to trade for wing help, likely around deadline

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The New Orleans Pelicans look like a playoff team (or at least a potential one in the deep West). They have the superstar in Anthony Davis, and he’s part of a well-fitting front line with Nikola Mirotic and Julius Randle. The Pelicans also are strong at the point guard spot with Jrue Holiday starting.

Where New Orleans need help is the wing. They had hoped Solomon Hill could be the man there, but he has not stayed healthy or panned out. E’Twaun Moore filled in for him, but was overmatched covering larger players at the three. Darius Miller can give them minutes but is not the answer. Pelicans GM Dell Demps wanted to make a move this summer, but up against the salary cap they didn’t have to room to chase quality free agents.

So look for them to try and pull off an in-season trade, reports Scott Kushner of the New Orleans Advocate.

History (and several league sources) indicates Demps is waiting for a midseason trade to strike. As teams around the league see their postseason prospects dim, and grow eager to exchange a quality player for expiring salaries or the Pelicans’ always-endangered first round pick, there’s opportunity to shore up their most glaring weakness.

It’s exactly what Demps did to acquire Cousins from Sacramento in 2017 and Mirotic a year later from Chicago. Both are impactful veterans who were added without surrendering foundational players.

Various sources and several reports said the Pelicans were active in trade talks this summer, notably with the tanking Atlanta Hawks for Kent Bazemore. But with so few teams eager to dump quality players before opening tip, hoping to make a playoff run of their own, the cost was too steep.

Demps know the Pelicans are on the clock — Davis has this season and one more on his contract (there is a player option for a third season, but he almost certainly will opt out at that point). The Pelicans can offer him the “super max” contract at that point, and Davis has said he wants to stay and win in New Orleans, but if the team struggles and/or he gets a sense that ownership is not all-in on winning, he could choose to look around as a free agent.

Which means Demps and the Pelicans will do what it takes to win now, and a move at the trade deadline is possible. The Hawks still will listen to offers for Bazemore, and other wings will become available. It’s just something to watch as we head into the season.

 

Paul Pierce: ‘There is no loyalty to a franchise anymore … That’s the generation we live in’

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After Kevin Durant left the Thunder for the Warriors, Paul Pierce criticized players for changing teams to win.

Now, Pierce is providing an assessment of players just changing teams generally.

Brian Robb of Boston Sports Journal:

To be fair, Pierce doesn’t criticize players for not being loyal to franchises. In fact, he brings up that players are exercising their power.

But it’s still hard not to infer at least some disapproval from Pierce.

Why should players be loyal to franchises, though? Top players are assigned to teams through an anti-labor draft, the least successful teams getting the highest priority of selection. Those players are kept on an artificially low wage for five years can’t unilaterally leave the team for five years. If he plays well enough, his original team has a huge financial advantage in keeping him for up to 14 years. In this system, teams exercise far more control than they earn loyalty.

Players have such short careers. They should chase whatever they want. Money, winning, role, location, even steadiness with a franchise – if they choose.

Pierce spent 15 years with the Celtics, but let’s not forget:

Pierce asked the Mavericks to trade for him in 2005 so he could play with Dirk Nowitzkion a team one star away from contending. In 2007, he reportedly told the Celtics to trade him if they didn’t add a second star. Boston, of course, traded for Ray Allen and then convinced Kevin Garnett to waive his no-trade clause. In 2013, Pierce helped engineer a trade to the Nets. He and Garnett joined Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopezin Brooklyn and Pierce said, “We’re all about winning a championship and Brooklyn, we feel, gives us the best opportunity.” After stints with the Nets and Wizards, Pierce signed with the Clippers, which he described as a super team.